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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- As Congress wrestles with overhauling the nation's health care system, a group of Utah clinics is trying its own brand of reform close to home: urgent care operations that charge $49 a month and a $5 fee per visit.
After Hours Medical began advertising its discount program last month for its six clinics along the Wasatch Front. So far, about 400 people have enrolled.
The program is intended as a lower-cost option for those without insurance. Members get medical evaluations and treatment of minor illnesses such as ear infections, pneumonia, chest pain and skin infections.
Company officials said they hope it will keep patients healthier by not having to put off needed care until it becomes critical and more expensive.
Dr. Rachot Vacharothone, the company's president and CEO, has invited President Barack Obama to visit one of the clinics.
Vacharothone said he began exploring the idea while working in urgent care and watching frustrated patients wait several hours for treatment. He also noticed that many patients who were seriously ill had allowed relatively simple ailments to get out of control.
Vacharothone set up his own urgent care clinic and experimented this year with a flat $60 service fee.
"When I did that, many of the patients who had lost their insurance were happy," he said.
He said he expects the program to draw the uninsured, as well as those with high insurance deductibles and those who can't be insured because of pre-existing conditions.
The program includes evaluation of injuries as well as X-rays, casts, annual health screenings and treatment of certain chronic conditions.
Because those conditions are relatively inexpensive to treat, Vacharothone said he can keep the costs low.
Information from: Deseret News
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)